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Review and Measurements of Amazon Link Amp

Naxos41

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This amp is currently on sale at $239. I am very tempted so that I can set up a system in the dining room where my small kids can play their favorite tunes via voice control.

One question. If I stream Amazon Music “UltraHD” files rated at 24/96 into this amp, will I be hearing something like 24/48 due to the bandwidth limitation? If this is the case, it would still not be horrible I think.
 

Naxos41

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On a side note, if amazon wants to push their HD music service, they should start adding digital out to Echo dots soon (ala Google chromecast).
 

D700

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On a side note, if amazon wants to push their HD music service, they should start adding digital out to Echo dots soon (ala Google chromecast).
I sent this as a suggestion late last year to Jeff Bezos email, before they'd announced HD Music. I wasn't expecting a response but I actually got a nice email back from the Product Management team saying Jeff had forwarded it to them and they would consider it. I asked them to add optical out 24/192 for Echo Show that can route music to digital out while displaying cover art and lyrics. Would be the perfect home Jukebox, plug right into everyone's existing home stereo systems....they could do similar for movies with HDMI out. Also asked for an IR port to enable Echo to turn equipment on/off.

Fingers crossed.

I've been an Apple guy for so long, have been sliding to an Echo lead home, seldom use my iPhone anymore once I"m inside.
 
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cookiefactory

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I'm somewhat interested in this, but interestingly enough the top 3 Google subjective reviews all claim the Echo Link amp "lacks dynamics", "flat, lifeless sound", and has "pathetic sound". Now assuming the three reviewers independently came to these conclusions it raises a few questions:

1. Is there any merit to the consistency of subjective impressions?
2. What is the cause of these negative reviews? Are the properties (aesthetic, reputation, etc) so unappealing that they prime listeners for the worst?
3. Is there anything in the objective measurements that would support these subjective impressions?
 

Naxos41

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The sale is back again for $240. I'm still on the fence.

The alternative is to buy something like NAD D3020 and connect to an Echo Dot via analog (or BT) for now. Still hoping that Amazon will make an Alexa-enabled digital streamer in the future. Echo Link apparently limits its digital output to 16/44, so it's not good enough (plus bulky and expensive for what it does).
 
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Cahudson42

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Alexa-enabled digital streamer
I have used a $30 Fire 7, which supports OTG, with a powered OTG cable and a D10 as a streamer front end for Amazon Music HD. Being Amazon, the F7 is recognized as a 'castable' device from any other phone/tablet running AM HD. (Though there are reports playback on the F7 is limited to 16/44.1 when casted too).

I would expect you could use an F8 or F10 in 'Show' mode and OTG/DAC-of-choice for an Alexa single-device verbally controlled streamer W/o the 16/44.1 limitation..

Use it with a '$10' Yamaha AX-596 from Goodwill..:)
 

GGroch

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I think that Amazon has just added a significant function to both the Echo Link and Echo Link Amp.

The description now says: Echo Link Amp supports casting to multi-room music from a line-in input. And, Lets you cast to one or more Echo speakers from a line-in input, like an amplified turntable or CD player.

This would be a change....and a benefit you cannot get from an Echo Input or using the DOT's line out. They mention broadcasting the Aux Line In only, not the Optical Input. Of course, there would be no voice control of the analog input besides volume and mute.
 

Unclevanya

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The Amazon echo link amp is currently proceed at $20
@amirm or has anyone looked into this just using as a streamer with digital out going into one of the decent DACs? In other words just getting an Echo Link to be used as a streamer with digital out.

The amplifier section shut down the unit when he tested it without a speaker dummy load at high output levels, so I suspect that kind of use wouldn't work well unless your amp was very sensitive and didn't need much output from the DAC to reach your desired listening levels.
 

Unclevanya

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I'm somewhat interested in this, but interestingly enough the top 3 Google subjective reviews all claim the Echo Link amp "lacks dynamics", "flat, lifeless sound", and has "pathetic sound". Now assuming the three reviewers independently came to these conclusions it raises a few questions:

1. Is there any merit to the consistency of subjective impressions?
2. What is the cause of these negative reviews? Are the properties (aesthetic, reputation, etc) so unappealing that they prime listeners for the worst?
3. Is there anything in the objective measurements that would support these subjective impressions?

That drop in output at the top end when streaming and when using digital input could maybe make some listeners hear a lack of sizzle and crispness, but older ears wouldn't really notice I'd guess. The analog in drop in both high and low frequency could make it feel listless... That's all I can think of based on the measured performance that gives any explanation of the impressions reviews have given. It isn't just Amazon reviews either: https://www.whathifi.com/us/reviews/amazon-echo-link-amp
 

D700

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I have used a $30 Fire 7, which supports OTG, with a powered OTG cable and a D10 as a streamer front end for Amazon Music HD. Being Amazon, the F7 is recognized as a 'castable' device from any other phone/tablet running AM HD. (Though there are reports playback on the F7 is limited to 16/44.1 when casted too).

I would expect you could use an F8 or F10 in 'Show' mode and OTG/DAC-of-choice for an Alexa single-device verbally controlled streamer W/o the 16/44.1 limitation..

Use it with a '$10' Yamaha AX-596 from Goodwill..:)
Great post. Was not familiar with OTG and have been looking for something like this to scratch the itch until better/cheaper solutions enter the market. And nice call on the Yamaha, scrounging gold right there.

A little easel dock for the F10 then bobs your uncle

Edit: From what reading I"ve done, none of the Fire Tablets support Ultra HD, they'll support AMHD though. What I really want is a new Squeezebox Touch that supports all the Music Services but that's a whole other ball of yarn
 
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escape2

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With analog input, how quickly does it go to sleep?
 

onix

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...

The description now says: Echo Link Amp supports casting to multi-room music from a line-in input. And, Lets you cast to one or more Echo speakers from a line-in input, like an amplified turntable or CD player.

....

Can someone else please confirm this, i.e. using Echo Link Amp to play to wired standalone speakers and simultaneously broadcast and play same audio to Echo speakers, e.g. Echo Studios, and do so without lag between the wired and wireless speakers?
 

Yorkshire Mouth

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This is a review and detailed measurements of Amazon Echo Link Amp power amplifier, DAC and network streamer. I purchased this from Amazon for USD $299 and it arrived yesterday.

While rather featureless from front, the overall feel of the plastic and case is quite good:


When you rotate the volume control white LEDs light up to show a coarse volume control. They time out very quickly though so I could not capture them on the camera.

Not sure what the hole is for. Maybe it is for a remote control but none was provided.

The back panel is the more interesting bit:


In addition to the power amplifier, we have a nice little DAC and pre-amplifier here. There are digital inputs in the form of both Coax and Toslink S/PDIF. And of course we also have streaming capability with the Ethernet jack and wifi.

Surprisingly we also have S/PDIF and Toslink output for digital connectivity to other DACs and amplifiers.

There is analog input and output. Former can be used for your analog gear and the latter, for use as a DAC or pre-amp. There are issues with this mode though. See later in measurement section.

Operationally the Link Amp runs very cool. However at higher power there is an audible mechanical hissing sound likely caused by resonance of an internal inductor. It was audible to me from 3 feet away without use of speakers (dummy loads).

As you can imagine for a product with Amazon name of it, there is a professional looking label underneath with every regulatory and safety certification you would want to see. This is important as the Link Amp like many other power amplifiers is mains operated with a lot of high power circuits.

Oddly there is no power button.

Sadly there is hardly any documentation provided with the unit. You are supposed to seek help in the Alexa app. I naively assumed that connecting ethernet cable would mean the Link Amp wout get instantly recognized by the app but such was not the case. I had to configure it using Wifi with the mess that is: connecting to local ad-hoc wifi it creates and then using the main home network. Process was quite non-intuitive and took multiple reboots of phone and link amp to get it to finally recognize it. Boy, do I miss the simplicity of the original echo.

Oddly, Alexa app provides no control over inputs! I just fed it S/PDIF and it output that. Ditto for analog. Can't tell what priority it will use if both are active.

There is a volume control in the app but it only controls local/streaming content, not the volume control on the Amp. Really? The volume control is digital so why can't I control it in the app???

Amazon has really lost its way here with respect to software here. Added complexity over time has not been managed.

Also at fault is the computer and networking industry that has not invented a new revision of Wifi standard that just works with devices like this.

Overall, my impression of hardware is positive and software negative.

Anyway, let's get into measurements. With so much functionality here, I have chosen a subset to test, mostly focusing on the amplifier performance.

DAC Measurements
I was happy to see line out so thought we can check the performance of the DAC this way. Alas, this was not meant to be as without a load, the amplifier shuts down when you turn up the volume to max to get the nominal voltage you like to see on a DAC. There should be a software option to turn off the power amp so it doesn't do that. So I had to connect my dummy loads to the amp to test it. Here is the outcome:

View attachment 24862

The power amplifier reduced performance by about 5 dB. SINAD was 92 dB or so without the load. The current values put the Link Amp in the lower tier of DACs tested:
View attachment 24865

It would have gone into a tier higher if I didn't have to run the power amplifier along with it.

Here is the DAC frequency response which was promoted by later test results:

View attachment 24866

The 44.1 kHz sampling results are fine. What is not fine is that no matter what other sample rate you use, you get the same bandwidth! In other words, while higher sample rates are accepted, everything seems to be down sampled to 44.1 or 48 kHz. So forget any dreams you have of high resolution audio.

Power Amplifier Measurements
Important note before we get into this section: during testing the results were a complete mess at lower frequencies. The graphs were literally not readable with very high variations of THD+N. So I spent a few hours with my son working through it and turned out some of these class-D amps cause frequency modulation at low frequencies which throws off the analyzer notch filter. The result was that THD+N would go from correct value to 20%+ which would totally screw things up on the graph. I found a good work-around for this which made the measurements look a lot nicer. Alas, this means you can't quite compare these results to previous measurements where this issue was visible. Fortunately we had very clean amplifiers such as Hypex NC400 without this issue so those results stand.

Let's start with power amplifier dashboard st 5 watts using digital input:

View attachment 24867

When I tested the SONOS Amp there was a lot of degradation with analog input so let's test that:

View attachment 24868

Ah, a sigh of relief. Performance actually improves a bit using analog in! Noise floor is flatter and lower although not enough to make the SINAD any different. Putting that value in context of other power amplifiers tested, we get this:

View attachment 24869

I updated this graph with the digital input of SONOS which nicely outperforms the Link Amp. However, as noted with analog input the Amazon Link Amp is much better.

Frequency response with digital input shows the same bandwidth limitation that the DAC did:
View attachment 24870

Same test with analog input shows a droop at low frequencies as well:

View attachment 24871

Note that even when using analog input, you are limited to the same 24 kHz bandwidth! Someone didn't want you to mess with high resolution audio no matter what. :)

That aside, there is now a low frequency roll off too.

Here is the signal to noise ratio:
View attachment 24872

Let's deal with the most important test: power output versus distortion and noise:
View attachment 24873

Compared to other budget amps like the $199 Topping TP60, there is much more power here and at lower noise and distortion. Don't like one channel having more distortion though.

A more direct competitor is the SONOS amp which costs twice as much but otherwise has streaming functionality:
View attachment 24874

The Link Amp has better noise level but that is because SONOS has poor performance with its analog input. The SONOS has tons more power and its two channels are staying in synch. So the SONOS is a better deal here putting the cost aside. Of course neither comes remotely close to our reference Hypex NC400 DIY build (at > $1,000).

There has been some interest in running jitter tests on these power amplifiers. So here is a snapshot of that:

View attachment 24875

The THD+N versus level and frequency where my new tests show much cleaner results:

View attachment 24876

Note that I have limited the bandwidth to 61 kHz. That is enough to capture the third harmonic of 20 kHz but low enough to keep the ultrasonic noise that these amps have. I will show that in a bit. Here we see that distortion rises with low and high frequencies. The curve though matches how our hearing works in that we are much less sensitive in low and high frequencies so the distortion products are likely not audibly a problem. Note then that testing at 1 khz shows the best case scenario for these class D amplifiers.

I have another variation of above where I sweep the level/power and keep the frequency the same:
View attachment 24878


We see that at 20,000 Hz, the two channels perform the same. But as soon as we lower the test to 2,000 Hz and then 200 Hz, one channel gets a lot worse. This tells me there is insufficient power supply capacitor reserve for one channel than for the other. The lower frequencies are more taxing this way because they stay at their extreme peaks of the sine wave longer.

Lastly, here is our ultrasonic spectrum of a 1 kHz tone:
View attachment 24879

We see our sharp spike around 600 kHz indicating that is the switching frequency. The rise in ultrasonics around 100 khz shows noise shaping (pulling noise out of audible band and stuffing it here). Levels for these are quite low as class-D amps go, showing good attention to filtering, no doubt helped with the limited bandwidth of 24 kHz.

Conclusions
Mechanically and from safety and emissions point of view, Amazon Echo Link amp delivers for just $299. This puts it way ahead of many offerings in this price range which are more akin to DIY efforts than a polished product. On top of that, you have streaming, DAC and a digital and analog pre-amplifier. This is a lot and I suspect Amazon is losing money on each one or barely breaking even.

While some attention has been paid to produce a performant product, there are clear limitations and issues here and there. Limiting of the bandwidth to 24 khz in all modes is a miss objectively but not subjectively. As with other class D amps, we have odd behavior here and there such as rise in low frequency distortion, ultrasonic noise.

The mechanical whistling while the amp is pushed should have been caught and fixed although in practice, the music should mask that well.

At $299 with so many features and generally good performance, I am going to go ahead and put the Amazon Echo Link Amp on my recommended list. No, it is no audiophile find. But for secondary use its performance is good enough to make it a good buy.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Got a very interesting email from a guy by the name of Ahmad from Nigeria. Says they actually have money trees there in the jungle and he is willing to send me some for free (to get publicity on ASR) if I just provide for shipping and special handling of $2,000. So please donate money so I can buy a few and get rich:

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/audiosciencereview), or
upgrading your membership here though Paypal (https://audiosciencereview.com/foru...eview-and-measurements.2164/page-3#post-59054).

Great review.

Any chance of you looking at the newest Fire TV Stick/Cube? The Amazon Music app plays all the way up to 24/192...indeed, it upscales anything lower to that. Output through HDMI only.
 

buzwork

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Looks like Amazon dropped the price to $209.99, tying the all-time low price for Prime Day in October 2020.
 

Jazz

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@amirm All things considered, what would be some good “small home office” bookshelf speakers to go with the Link Amp? Obviously, not too expensive or too cheap but a good match for its performance range. The office is size of a small kids rectangular bedroom. Two big sash windows. Bifold closet.
Speakers will either be on the desk or more likely on a shelf behind office worker. Walls are popcorn and windows have bamboo slats over cellular shades so, acoustics is not terrible.
 

buzwork

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@amirm All things considered, what would be some good “small home office” bookshelf speakers to go with the Link Amp? Obviously, not too expensive or too cheap but a good match for its performance range. The office is size of a small kids rectangular bedroom. Two big sash windows. Bifold closet.
Speakers will either be on the desk or more likely on a shelf behind office worker. Walls are popcorn and windows have bamboo slats over cellular shades so, acoustics is not terrible.
I'd suggest looking at the speaker review index and selecting tower & stand mount speaker type, selecting recommended and using a preference score of 4.5 or better.

 

Jazz

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My first impressions is harsh, brutalist architecture like sound, some distortion. :(
But, this is something I experienced with (some) speakers, until they are broken in (exception: Polk sounds like that no matter what).
Anyhow: what is the break in time for this amp?
 

EdTice

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I just purchased and setup one of these amplifiers. Given that the software is constantly updating, hopefully what I provide here is useful.

There are many people asking about digital out from an echo to the link amp. Obviously to do that, you would have to have digital out on the echo. I don't know which DAC is in my Echo Show. I can get audio to the Echo Link via the headphone output using 3.5mm to RCA cable.

You can use the Echo Link Amp as the output device for an Echo Show. But since Echo Show can basically only play Amazon music, I have no way to figure out if data is being streamed via WiFi or the Echo Show just becomes like an app to control the Link Amp.

I'm included to think it's the latter because when you send the music to the Link Amp, the Echo Show can no longer display lyrics.

You can also go the other way where the Echo Link Amp uses the Echo Show as a bluetooth speaker. This was asked previously. The line in can be distributed to local speakers or "everywhere" (whatever that means) but it does seem to allow a multi-room setup.

The Echo Link Amp offers a subwoofer output. Bass managment is supposedly disabled by default but there is signal coming out of that connector. I'm assuming that what you get by default is a sum of L/R. That's probably the one piece of analog circuitry in the whole device.

I haven't tried enabling bass management because whenever I select audio settings in the Alexa app, the app crashes. But only for this device (i.e. I can select the Echo Show audio settings and change them but not the Link Amp). This is even true for the Alexa iPhone app and the Alexa app for Kindle Fire (the latter being completely ridiculous since they are both Amazon devices).

I use this in my garage gym. I like having the lyrics even though I don't really pay attention to them. The device will meet my needs. For $200 it's a good amp even if none of the 'smart' features work which is good because they all work poorly. However, there is so little information available about the amp that it's hard to get it setup meaningfully and the apps don't work.

I'm going to use the analog input from the Echo Show since that's the only way the devices integrate. They might be the same DAC but probably not and I'm guessing the Link Amp is better. I may never be able to set the crossover which is fine because I really don't want bass management enabled since I'm sure that will involve an A->D->A conversion and I don't need it since I know how to set the crossover on my sub.

I had high hopes for this amp. Maybe someday I'll love it. The nice thing about it is that it doesn't respond to voice so that's a big plus. I might end up moving into my dining room and getting something else for the gym.

The LR inputs are not lined up with the subwoofer out. So I hooked it up backwards the first time.

One thing that's helpful for me (but probably nobody else) is that the analog inputs seem to "pass through" which means that I can pass them on to the mixing board for the gym which lets me get the music into the PA stage monitor speakers that I use when somebody is performing a group exercise class. But I'm probably the only one who has that use case.
 

EdTice

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This is a review and detailed measurements of Amazon Echo Link Amp power amplifier, DAC and network streamer. I purchased this from Amazon for USD $299 and it arrived yesterday.



DAC Measurements
I was happy to see line out so thought we can check the performance of the DAC this way. Alas, this was not meant to be as without a load, the amplifier shuts down when you turn up the volume to max to get the nominal voltage you like to see on a DAC. There should be a software option to turn off the power amp so it doesn't do that. So I had to connect my dummy loads to the amp to test it. Here is the outcome:

View attachment 24862
Amazon now has the Echo Link which appears to be the same thing but without the amplifier sections. So if I'm reading this correctly one could use the Echo Link and connect the analog output to the Echo Link Amp basically getting the same DAC and amp. Now that the prices are lowered to $139 and $200 respectively, you could get both units for the price of just the combined unit at time of testing and that should work out pretty well? Then you would never pull down the DAC because it would have a separate power supply. Would be kind of a funny setup but would seem to be a dirt cheap option. Am I missing something here?
 
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